Thai billionaire joins Heineken in bidding race for Fraser & Neave

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 September, 2012, 3:45am


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Thai billionaire Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi made a S$9 billion (HK$56.71 billion) bid for the 70 per cent of Fraser & Neave he does not control, potentially blocking Heineken from buying the company's beer business.

TCC Assets, linked to Charoen's Thai Beverage, offered S$8.88 a share for F&N, TCC said in a filing yesterday. The bid is 4.3 per cent more than F&N's closing price on Wednesday and values the company at US$10.3 billion.

Charoen set off a scramble for F&N and its assets when he agreed to buy a stake in the company in July. Heineken countered with a bid for F&N's 40 per cent stake in Tiger beer maker Asia Pacific Breweries (APB), which the Dutch brewer already partially owns. Charoen's latest bid comes before a September 28 meeting where F&N shareholders will vote on Heineken's proposal.

"The fact that they are making an offer at this stage seems to suggest that they want a bigger say in the vote," said Goh Han Peng, an analyst at DMG & Partners Research. "They could scuttle the deal if they want to hold on to APB."

Charoen's bid is the largest announced by a Thai company in at least a decade. Buying F&N would widen his influence in Asia. His brewer, which is F&N's largest shareholder with a 29 per cent stake, got almost all its revenue from Thailand last year.

Charoen could also want to break up the 129-year-old conglomerate, which has soft drink and property businesses, according to Justin Harper, a market strategist at IG Markets.

"We still think Thai Bev is more interested in the alcoholic business of F&N, of which APB is the jewel in the crown," he said. "It would hate to see Heineken gain control of this."

Japan's Kirin Holdings, which has a 15 per cent stake in F&N, has said it is interested in its soft-drink and food businesses. Coca-Cola has explored a bid for the drinks operations, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

Kirin spokesman Jun Sato and Coca-Cola spokeswoman Joanna Price declined to comment yesterday.